On January 13, 1909 Winston Churchill accompanied by his wife Clementine visited Birmingham where he made a major speech to the Birmingham Liberal Club at a banquet held at the Grand Hotel. Prior to the banquet the Churchills attended a reception where they received gifts to mark their wedding that was held the previous September. Churchill, then serving as President of the Board of Trade in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Asquith, presided at the banquet which had 300 in attendance, including several other members of parliament.

As the dinner was progressing a woman, described as a young lady in a blue silk evening dress named Gladys Keevil, approached the head table and asked Churchill what the government intended to do about the vote for women. When the cabinet minister did not commit to extending the vote, Keevil said, “If you do not make a promise I must remain and protest.” At this juncture several stewards escorted her unwillingly from the room as she called out, “I have come too soon it appears, but I cannot help but protest against the action of the Liberal Government.”

In the speech, which was later published as “The Social Field” in his book Liberalism and the Social Problem, Churchill supported the social reforms he wished to introduce as President of the Board of Trade. To cheers from the audience he resolutely supported the policies of the Liberal government and harshly criticized the actions of the House of Lords whose reform must be an issue at the next election.